Rescuer tells his story about saving 2 boys in the bay

August 20, 2012 7:25:30 PM PDT
There is high praise for a man who risked his life over the weekend to save two boys who were drifting in a rowboat toward the middle of San Francisco Bay. It happened Saturday afternoon during a family gathering off Candlestick Point Recreation Area. ABC7 spoke with the man who jumped in the water and got the boys.

The bay water was about 55 degrees, but Nick Tumilowich says he did not think twice when he saw the boys in trouble. He stripped down to his underwear and jumped in.

"There was really little thought involved in terms of 'I'm getting in.' That was the idea," said Tumilowicz.

Tumilowicz has had two days to let it sink in. His heroic rescue of two 12-year-old boys adrift in a tiny rowboat.

"It was really scary at the end. I didn't think this was it, but I knew it was going to be really tough," said Tumilowicz.

"I'm lucky to be here right now and not in the bottom of the ocean," said 12-year-old Jack Olinger.

Olinger and his buddy 12-year-old Christian Pryfogle were both at a birthday picnic at Candlestick Point Recreation Area. Somebody at the party brought a boat. The boys were photographed in the boat and in life jackets, right before they went to retrieve a football from the water and were swept out on the bay.

"We got the football and then we realized, 'Oh no, we're probably not going to get it back,'" said Olinger.

With the umbrella acting as a sail, the boat drifted from Candlestick Point, deeper into the bay. Nick Tumilowicz ran to the end of the point, stripped off his clothes and swam about a mile to the boat in 55-degree water. He got in and started rowing, but they could not get back to land, drifting north. By that time, waves were swamping the boat and it started sinking, so they all bailed out and swam about 200 yards to the end of a pier.

"And I was just holding their two jackets with one hand and doing the sidestroke up to the pier, but we made it happen," said Tumilowicz.

After the U.S. Coast Guard plucked them from the pier, the rescuer and the two grateful boys shared a meal. Tumilowicz's friend, Jon Previtali, jumped in and saved two unidentified men who also tried to reach the boys.

"They got in trouble, so I went out and saved one of them," said rescuer Previtali.

Tumilowicz has been getting congratulations from friends and family.

"My little brother gave me the best note. It's created a stronger connection. He's just appreciative, he said, 'I love you as an older brother,'" said Tumilowicz.

Tumilowicz figures he was in the water about an hour and a half. He had mild hypothermia. Now he works in the solar power industry, but for 15 years he was a lifeguard. He says he had about five rescues under his belt, but none like this.


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